With the California gubernatorial recall election just weeks away, a well-known California pastor is calling on the congregants of his church to vote in support of removing Gov. Gavin Newsom from office.
In an Aug. 1 sermon, Greg Fairrington, the pastor of Destiny Christian Church in Rocklin, advised the audience at his megachurch to “do your job as Christians” and “vote yes on recalling an immoral governor” on Sept. 14. His request was met with cheers from the audience.
“Do your job,” he said. “Use your voice. Use your influence.”
In the upcoming recall election, voters will decide whether they want to remove Newsom, a Democrat, from office before his term is scheduled to expire next year.
In a statement to The Sacramento Bee, Fairrington stated that he thinks the governor’s “policies and politics have continually contradicted the Word of God and have been in opposition with the millions of Christians in California.”
Under federal law, church leaders who endorse or oppose candidates for political office on behalf of their churches run the risk of losing their organizations’ tax-exempt status. But church leaders can make such endorsements or opposition public in their personal capacities.
“My comments on the recall do not support a candidate but rather highlight the unfortunate actions by Gov. Newsom that have traumatic consequences for families, schools, communities, and the church,” Fairrington added. “This is not a political issue, but a moral one, and it is the responsibility of the church to our community to preach what Ephesians 5:11 says, ‘Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.”
After winning the 2018 California gubernatorial election by more than 20 percentage points and securing nearly 3 million more votes than his Republican opponent, Newsom quickly faced criticism from conservatives for embracing progressive legislation.
Newsom’s signing of a bill requiring colleges to offer abortion pills on campus received intense pushback from the conservative and religious communities.
Dissatisfaction with Newsom grew as the coronavirus pandemic broke out in the United States. Newsom imposed restrictions on in-person worship services, which many pastors and churches challenged in court or refused to obey. As Newsom reimposed worship restrictions last summer amid a surge in coronavirus cases, Fairrington was one of the pastors who indicated that he planned to defy the restrictions.
“I believe my mandate as a pastor is to obey the Word of God,” Fairrington said at the time. “And part of what we do is we worship together as a church. We are not going to allow our government to use data that is not supported factually to shut the church down.”
The recall effort accelerated when photographs surfaced of Newsom dining in close proximity to lobbyists at an upscale restaurant even though he had instructed Californians to stay home and avoid travel ahead of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Less than six months after the November dinner, California Secretary of State Shirley Weber announced that the recall supporters had gathered enough signatures to force a recall election.
In addition to voting on the recall, California voters will have the opportunity to select who they would like to replace Newsom as governor, regardless of whether or not they vote to recall him. If the recall receives majority support among the California electorate, the replacement candidate that gets the most votes will replace Newsom as governor.
With less than six weeks to go, two of the most recent polls project differing outcomes of the recall election.
A poll conducted by Survey USA this week found that 51% of Californians would vote to remove Newsom from office while 40% would vote to keep him in office. In that particular poll, a plurality of Californians (27%) would choose another Democrat, YouTube personality and real estate agent Kevin Paffrath, as the replacement candidate. Meanwhile, 23% would select conservative talk radio show host Larry Elder.
Another poll, conducted by Emerson College last weekend, found that 48% of Golden State residents would vote to keep Newsom in office while 46% would vote to remove him. Twenty-three percent of Californians would choose Elder to replace Newsom, making him the most popular candidate in that poll.
Regardless of what happens in the recall election, a regularly scheduled gubernatorial election will occur in California in November 2022. The winner of that election will serve a four-year term.
Newsom is the second California governor in the past two decades to face a recall election. Democrat Gov. Gray Davis was recalled in 2003, shortly after winning a second term in office. He was replaced by actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who served as governor until 2011.